That bitter tea was already 18 to 36 months old by the time it made its way from Canton to warehouses in Amsterdam or London. Plus, Europeans knew little about the procedure for making tea. It was often over-steeped in water that was too hot.
Thankfully, sugar was beginning to move from the apothecary to the kitchen. It wasn’t long before someone discovered that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine – and bad tea – go down.
One Dutch doctor was instrumental in extolling the virtues of tea. Cornelius Bontekoe, known as the teedoktor, often prescribed eight to ten cups of weak tea, twice daily, for his patients. He claimed the therapy cured kidney stones, corrected the circulation of the blood and banished sleep without any harm.
“We advise tea for the whole nation and for every nation. We advise men and women to drink tea daily; hour by hour if possible; beginning with 10 cups a day, and increasing the dose to the utmost quantity that the stomach can contain and the kidneys eliminate.”